In recent Sunday Recommendations, I’ve tipped my hat to “things that are better than they should be” and “musicians who deserve to be resurrected”. This week is all about things that are as good as they are. This is not a list of mediocrities. While it is definitely possible to work oneself up into disappointment about these things, the disappointment is itself ultimately disappointing: at its best, it is a fleeting sensation of disdain or superiority over something that never quite reached or sustained the heights one would have hoped, and at its worst, it’s just a churlish misunderstanding of the world.
So, here are a dozen recommendations of things that are as good as they are, sometimes becoming majestically better, and sometimes dipping into the pedantically worse, but at the end of the day, no better and no worse, and worth celebrating in the world:
1. American Coffee. I’m not talking about coffee beans, I’m talking about a good old cup of joe. Some mornings, it’s like Haephastus’ piss; on others, it’s like a punch in the gut from Uncle Sam. Most days, a cup of American coffee is like John Wayne’s career: it starts out lean and mean and ends up soft and slightly self-mocking. This does not include Starbucks, which is a cylon-like synthesis of American Coffee and aviation fuel. Speaking of which:
2. Battlestar Galactica
4. Robert Rodriguez films
5. David Beckham. When the minute-by-minute game bloggers on The Guardian talk about the “perfectly-weighted pass”, they must know that the platonic ideal of this pass was realised. Crediting Ronaldo with that goal is like crediting a Greek hero with slaying a monster knowing full well that the hero was blessed with momentary invincibility by the gods; yes, Ronaldo had the bullish grace of a Greek hero or Zidane, and you admire the pugnacity and the finesse, but a higher power was involved. And yet somehow Beckham will always be a demi-God.
6. Revisiting childhood television favourites.
7. Roger Ebert’s film reviews
8. No-knead bread. The recipe works: you get a homemade loaf of bread that isn’t stodgy, that doesn’t have an inch-thick darkened rim of chewy, unpalatable crust, that involves some virtuous work but is far from a molecular-gastronomy-ordeal; it’s tasty, but it simply isn’t delicious. I’ve tampered with the recipe, added salt, subtracted salt, added herbs . . . tasty, but not delicious.
9. Community. Expectations were high for this show, and though the highest expectations have never been met, it’s amiable, smart, it’s sometimes as ironic as people think it is, it’s conservative but in a vaguely liberal way, and amongst its stars is Alison Brie, perhaps better known as Pete’s wife in Mad Men. This is the show that people thought Friends was.
11. John Irving’s novels.
12. Bruce Springsteen